Oscar-nominated writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) returns behind the camera for supernatural horror Demonic. It’s the first time that the filmmaker has helmed a project since 2015’s Chappie, however, his latest feature is far from being a triumphant comeback. Rather, this flick is a run-of-the-mill horror outing that lacks both scares and creativity.
Carly (Carly Pope) has cut ties with her mother, Angela (Nathalie Boltt), ever since she was convicted for multiple murders. Years later, she’s contacted by a medical group who ask her for aid with their research, then her mother falls into a coma. Carly is asked to enter Angela’s mind via a computer simulation to interact with her consciousness. But the demon that’s been plaguing her all this time is a literal one that latches itself onto the protagonist.
Exploring the supernatural goings-on inside someone’s mind is an intriguing angle for the genre. Sci-fi video game Observer, for example, shows that a similar premise could be achieved effectively by placing players in constantly shifting settings that reflect the mental wellbeing of the individual’s mind. Not only can the settings express characters’ psyches in a provocative manner, the uncertainty of what could happen next maintains a level of dread throughout.
Blomkamp unfortunately discards this opportunity, closing the door on this seemingly major narrative device almost instantaneously. In fact, the inclusion of the simulation culminates in little more than a miscellaneous plot point that enables the maternal pair to communicate periodically. Viewers are instead treated to an uninspired horror affair in which characters walk slowly along darkened corridors as sounds go bump in the night. The director is unable to conjure any tension during the rare horror sequences and some of the scares that are there are downright silly, thanks to unpolished CGI. Combined with a collection of performances by actors who seem half bored themselves, the result is a sluggish viewing experience that makes the nearly two-hour runtime feel a lot longer than it is.
Demonic is a film of missed opportunities. As soon as Blomkamp disregarded his production’s biggest strength, he doomed his creation to profound mediocrity.
Demonic is released digitally on demand on 27th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Demonic here: